Wait times for local VA clinics more than double acceptable standard

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wwltv.com

Posted on June 2, 2014 at 10:28 PM

Thanh Truong / Eyewitness News
Email: ttruong@wwltv.com | Twitter: @thanh412

NEW ORLEANS -- The wait times at New Orleans area VA clinics rank among some of the worst in the country.

For most hospitals and clinics run by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the goal is to get veterans their care and appointments within 14 days.

Wait times at metro area clinics are more than double what's considered acceptable.

The VA health clinic in New Orleans is part of what's known as the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System. Approximately 60,000 veterans are enrolled in the regional system.

According to data compiled by USA Today, which was obtained through record requests from the VA, local veterans seeking new medical care from October 2013 to the end of March of this year waited an average of roughly 38 days.

The New Orleans area VA health care system ranks 18th in the country in terms of wait times in that six-month period.

Sen. David Vitter, R-La., said the wait times are likely even longer than presented.

"Unfortunately my reaction is I think that's an understatement. I think it's probably worse. I talk to veterans all the time and I've heard about horrendous waits," Vitter said.

Larry Jones works closely with fellow veterans on issues dealing with healthcare and benefits. He's satisfied with the level of care and the timeliness of that care. Jones said many of the veterans he helps are also satisfied with local clinics.

"I bring in many veterans to help them register for medical care. We walk right in the medical offices, we sit down, we get on the computer, they get registered then get a primary care physician assigned," said Larry Jones, service officer with VFW Post 8973.

A statement released by a spokesperson for the local VA clinic did not address the wait times. She did highlight the targeted 2016 opening of a fully functional VA Medical Center under construction now in Mid City.

The statement said in part "our future is very bright and our best days are ahead of us,"

The former VA Medical Center in New Orleans was shuttered after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Since then, a network of clinics has provided as much care as possible to veterans.

Vitter said given the current turmoil at the VA, the promise of a new building isn't evoking much confidence.

"Well, it's a beautiful building," Vitter said. "The question is, what's going to be going on inside it?"

 

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